We are more split than we have ever been, and it is not a good thing.
Monday's news that Russians are using the school shooting in Florida to divide Americans came as no surprise. It has been evident for more than a year that the Russian government wants to deepen the divide between Americans. The saddest part is I'm not sure we needed Russia's help to increase the divide. We Americans have been doing a pretty good job of that on our own.
I am currently reading Ron Chernow's mammoth book, Hamilton, and it is obvious the problems we face today have been with us since the beginning of our nation. George Washington was so sick of the infighting and backbiting that he decided to end his presidency after two terms. Today he is routinely seen as one of the top two or three presidents in American history, but 230 years ago, half the nation did not feel that way.
Today's polarization is not just the result of sinister foreign meddling. It is also more dangerous than what we experienced 230 years ago. It has been fed by the 24-hour news cycle of cable news networks. In a constant search for viewers, Fox News discovered the best way to build a loyal audience was to feed only information from one side of the political aisle. As time went on, Fox News became not just a tool of the right wing of the Republican Party, but by hiring purposefully inflammatory hosts, they fed knowingly false conspiracy theories that have only served to deepen the divide and hurt our democracy.
On the left, MSNBC has not always been a picture of objective reporting either, telling the truth, but editorially leaning left as they decide what news is worthy of reporting. Venerable and reliable media outlets like the Washington Post or the New York Times take justifiable pride in thoroughly vetting every story they print. But editorially, they lean as left as the Wall Street Journal leans right.
One of the lines in the Left Hand Church ethos is, "Conservative or liberal here, we've all got to give a little here." It is that give and take that has allowed our nation to thrive, and to which we need to return. I have vivid memories of Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan working together to reach goals that benefited all of America. That kind of bipartisan spirit is all but dead. The partisan divide has made America virtually ungovernable.
The church has always prided itself on being separate from the broader culture, but the truth is the church has always reflected the political realities of its environment. That the Roman Catholic Church developed a hierarchy that was a carbon copy of the Roman Empire is but the first example of the kind of cultural accommodation that has occurred for two millennia.
Therefore, we should not be surprised when 81 percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Evangelical America leans right. Interestingly, that was not always the case. Even one generation ago southern Evangelicals were inclined to be Democrats, not Republicans. In the 19th century, the church was the major provider of the kinds of social services that are now identified with the left. The government hadn't even gotten into the social service business yet. The work the church did back then looked a lot like the programs of left-leaning social service programs today. But that was then. Today it is a safe bet that Evangelical churches will lean right and mainline Protestant churches will lean left.
Is it possible for the church to stay out of politics? Should it stay out of politics? Those are questions we will explore at Left Hand Church. But not today.
Today we stand and watch in awe and gratitude as high school students from Florida raise their voices in eloquence to call on American adults to act like adults and protect them from violence. If the polarized adults won't act, the adolescents will.
This should be a moment of humiliation for American adults. By putting our financial wellbeing and political power above bipartisan cooperation, we have abandoned one of the most basic responsibilities we hold - to protect young and future Americans. But even as the children act with integrity, among the adults the name-calling goes on.
I am as encouraged by the student leadership being exhibited as I am by the #MeToo movement. I think we might actually be on the cusp of getting something done to make this nation a safer place, whether the issue is sexual assault or gun violence. And maybe in the process, we adults can learn from our children how to get along.
It all begins with loving God, loving your neighbor, and loving yourself. Jesus said let the children come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. I wonder if he had today in mind.